Over 2 mn Muslims throng Mount Arafat as Haj reaches climax

Over 2 million pilgrims, including about 1.5 lakh Indians, thronged Mount Arafat and its surrounding plain today for the high point of Haj as Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti voiced Islam's unequivocal position against extremism and terrorism.

Mount Arafat: Over 2 million pilgrims, including about 1.5 lakh Indians, thronged Mount Arafat and its surrounding plain today for the high point of Haj as Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti voiced Islam's unequivocal position against extremism and terrorism.

After reaching Mina, where they spent the night in prayer and supplication, hundreds of thousands of pilgrims clad in a white seamless cloth headed towards Arafat following Fajr prayers this morning. On reaching Arafat, they crowded onto the hill and the plain surrounding it to pray until sunset.

Before noon all pilgrims had reached Arafat and there was only a sea of people everywhere with pilgrims packed on the roads and inside Masjid Nimrah.

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Abdulaziz al-Sheikh in his annual Arafat sermon, which he delivered for the 34th year in a row, called on Muslims to unite and overcome divisions to build a stronger Muslim Ummah (community).

The thrust of his address was on Islam's moderation and tolerance as well as the religion's unequivocal position against extremism and terrorism.

The Mufti had earlier said that the dreaded militant groups -- Islamic State and al Qaeda -- were "enemy number one of Islam" and not in any way part of the faith.

He asked Muslims to assume leadership roles at all levels of life -- at family, national and international level.

Hundreds of thousands of people prayed together here combining the afternoon and evening prayers as they move to Muzdalifa at sunset.

Even intense heat could not dampen the enthusiasm of the pilgrims, some of whom took shelter under trees while others braved the sun but continued to pray and ask God for forgiveness.

The pilgrimage is one of the five pillars of Islam that should be performed at least once in lifetime by every Muslim who is financially and physically capable.

Emotional scenes were witnessed here in Arafat as many were in tears while others continued to thank God for making this journey possible for them.

Chants of "Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik" (O God, here I am answering your call) and "Allah hu Akbar" (God is the greatest) reverberated as the pilgrims began moving to Arafat, about 15 km east of the holy city of Mecca, from Mina.

Standing at Mount Arafat, where the Prophet is believed to have delivered his final Haj sermon, is is an accomplishment of a pilgrim's life and fulfillment of his dream of performing Haj.

After praying all day in Arafat, at sunset pilgrims left for Muzdalifa to spend the night there. Tomorrow morning they will move to Mina once again for the symbolic stoning of the devil. Then they will offer sacrifice of animals to mark Eid-ul-Azha.  

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